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Southeast Asian Breakfasts

shantihhh's picture

When Ganesh asked what do Thais eat for breakfast?  I got to thinking about this not so easy to answer question.  It isn't like the US where it's cold cereal and milk, bacon and eggs, or say pancakes unless in a Bangkok Western Hotel.  Actually all over Southeast Asia breakfasts are often of a savoury or non sweet choice.


In Thailand it is common to grab breakfast and most meals from street cooks.  They place your food in small plastic bags, or you can sit on low small stools and eat at child-size tables nearby.

Street vendor Bangkok

Bangkok rice and tea being cooked for morning early risers.

In India it's a fairly simple short list-vada, idli and sambhar,  masala dosa, sesame accented Gujarat Handwa, 'Pohe'  in Maharashtra, curd and fruit,, Upma, Appam, even cold cornflakes in busy city homes, of course it depends greatly on the region. Even my favourite Pav Bhaji is served as a breakfast dish.

South Indian Idli and Sambhar-note fork and knife for non-Indians who use their fingers to eat these delights.   Eating these wonderful offerings really tastes better when eaten with fingers.

All over Asia breakfast consists of savouries, no pancakes  or waffles and maple syrup unless in Western Hotels.  Fish fresh steamed or smoked, partially cooked egg with "congee" is also very common for breakfast.

Japanese Breafast bowl

Sorry back to Thai Breakfasts!

In Thailand there are some dishes popular for breakfast but generally it is often the left overs from last nights dinner.  Almost always savoury dishes.  Often a soup-type bowl.

Notice the large brass wok?  These are typical for soups.

This will be the first part of the series "What do Thais Eat for Breakfast" as it is a very long list of dishes.  The first and very popular breakfast choice is a soup (tom) dish  Khao Tom.  Another traditional breakast dish in Thailand is a thick rice soup made with pork and or pork parts. It is similiar to the Chinese Congee or Jook also a rice soup.

The third one from the left is thebest brand of fish sauce/nam pla-Golden Boy.   Others contains chemicals!

The soupy rice  soup is  served with a variety of salty, pickled and stir-fried dishes; or chicken, pork, fish or shrimp can be cooked in with the soup and flavored with garlic, ginger, fried scallions and cilantro, and of course a dish of nam pla phrik (fish sauce with chiles) is offered to adjust taste. 

 Also a bowl of smoked roasted chiles is available as is MSG.

We love this dish for a late dinner/supper and especially any time someone is not feeling so good.  Then I make it with Chicken Broth-usually freshly made forbest flavour, some ginger, a little salt, and as the person feels better I proceed to add more ginger, then some white pepper. 

This is the thick porridge tyle rather than soupy with broth.

 All of these rice soups are similiar, but perhaps the favourite is Khao Tom.  Johk as above is thicker closer to say a porridge.  The rice is cooked in chicken broth, and sometimes minced pork is added.and is pressed into small "meatballs" and tossed into the simmering pot for fie minutes.

 The rice is poured into a serving bowl and the pork balls added together with some liver and kidney. If you like a raw is  egg racked into the soup which ends up being only partly cooked. Shredded ginger or pickled radish is added as garnish.

Shredded Ginger                                  Roasted dry chile flakes

Fried Shallots                                         Egg


Khao Tom (Thai Rice Soup) -serves 8

      12 cups  pork or chicken stock
      4 tsp grated fresh gingerroot
      4 lg shallots; minced 
      2    stalk lemon grass; 2" pieces 
     1 1/4 cups  Thai Hom Mali Jasmine rice
    1   lb  ground pork
     1/4 cup Nam Pla (thai fish sauce)


sliced shallots deep-fried
sprigs of fresh cilantro

Roasted Thai Chile flakes

Nam Pla Phrik (chiles sliced in fish sauce)

In a large stock pot combine boiling stock with ginger, shallots, lemon grass, add rice.

Return to a boil, lower heat and gently  simmer, stirring
occasionally, for 30 to 35 minutes, or until rice is very soft.

 Remove and discard lemon grass. Add the pork  (form in to little meatballs) and simmer 5-8 minutes more until pork is cooked. 

 Finish with fish sauce to taste.  Reminder use a good brand such as Golden Boy!

 Garnish with scallions, deep fried shallots and cilantro.

Variations:  Add an egg to each bowl, or a salted egg half.

I will continue this series with recipes of rice noodle soups, egg dishes, and such enjoyed by Thais and many in Southeast Asia for breakfast.  I'll also place the recipes in the recipe section for an easier access location.

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Southeast Asian Breakfasts